The Thermals: 29 April 2009 – The Bottom Lounge, Chicago

Adeptly skirting the line between indie pop and indie punk, Portland’s three-piece The Thermals seemed to be having as much fun as the audience at this show. There’s a visible chemistry between the band members on stage, especially Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster. This undoubtedly makes their songs sound tighter live, even when their over-amorous fans add their own volume to the mix. In fact, it was undeniable how anthemic the Thermals’ songs had become — especially to the younger members of the crowd.

Though they’ve split with their former label Sub Pop, the group have just released their fourth and perhaps most widely appreciated album, 2009’s Now We Can See, and new label Kill Rock Stars seems to fit them well. Live, their appeal seems to come via the unique nature of their songs, in that you don’t know whether to dance, mosh, or do both.

However you express yourself, it’s difficult not to notice the stage presence of bassist and co-singer Kathy Foster. When she’s not smiling at her adoring audience, you can find her jumping and dancing, even when she has to keep the rhythm pulsing. She seems adept at this balance though, and truly makes it look easy to keep up the pace with Westin Glass’ drumming and the melody lines of Hutch Harris. With her gorgeous curls flailing as much as the audience’s passionate arms, she’s a vision to behold and makes seeing the band a truly positive experience in the live environment.

Mixing up their setlist between newer material (“We Were Sick”, “When I Was Afraid”) and older crowd favorites (“It’s Trivia” from their first album, More Parts Per Million), the band seems to be extending the length of their live set with every new release. With such consistent records and live performances, anyone wanting to still catch them in smaller venues should do so now.